Jean’s Vintage Solution to Free Motion on a Budget

on June 17 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips | by | with 94 Comments

Jean wrote to us the other day about her long arm quilting solution, a vintage Singer 201-2. For around $150 Jean purchased the machine, a table and a new power cord, and now she’s thrilled with her free motion quilting. She writes, “I think it’s cool that a 1947 machine solved a 2009 problem.”

SMMSinger201.jpg title=

Jean’s Singer with Diet Coke cans to demonstrate harp size.

Jean talks all about the machine on her Quilted Cupcake podcast ( You can see pictures and find more links on Jean’s Quilted Cupcake blog.

Thanks so much, Jean. After listening to the podcast it sounds like you were definitely meant to have that machine!

For more information about long arm quilting check out our Quilting Month article from Gina of QuiltersBuzz.

Join us for Sewing Machine Month! Enter to win this week’s prize package from our Sewing Machine Month sponsor: Husqvarna/Viking. Comment on any post this week for your chance to win the General Sewing Package (over $150 retail value), or you might win one of four $20 gift certificates to Sew,Mama,Sew!.
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94 Responses to Jean’s Vintage Solution to Free Motion on a Budget

  1. Sim says:

    fascinating! I grew up with a Singer in the house but it was given away before I found out I was a quilter years later… 🙂

  2. Jean says:

    Thanks for all the great feedback! I hope other quilters are able to discover similar treasures!

  3. ellen says:

    Wow…what a great idea. I have a beautiful vintage singer that I have in my hallway because the cabinet it is in is so pretty………I never thought to actually use it!

  4. Jodieth says:

    Oh my, that is Exactly the sewing machine my grandmother “Nanny” started me on when I was about 5. I wish I had never sold it in my late 20’s. I just did not have anyplace to put it. It was in cabinet with stool as well. Sad for me. 🙁

  5. Emily says:

    I love old machines, and I have, errr…. 3 and I am getting another 😉
    That is really great to see other people using them. Glad to see it isn’t just me! 😉

  6. Liz D says:

    That is such a good idea. I’m totally going to keep an eye open for one.

  7. Katherine W says:

    Thank you for posting this! I’m going to check out the blog now!

  8. Megan says:

    Very cool sewing machine!

  9. Diana Summers says:

    Antique LUST here! I learned on an ancient Singer of my Grandmother’s a very long time ago 🙂

  10. lena says:

    This is a great article! I learned to free motion on a singer 301. Can’t beat these older machines. They are truely remarkable.

  11. alli forsyth says:

    I’m going to look up that blog right now…thanks for all the information..

  12. jackie says:

    what a great discovery! and that machine is much better looking than a new machine.

  13. Suzanne Rowe says:

    I have a few old machines that I need to get out and set up. The cabinet idea is great. I handn’t thought of putting my old machines in one.

    Great Ideas!

  14. Ellen Ban says:

    I’m going to “play” with my old Singer 99 this weekend!

  15. Jennifer says:

    I was just talking to some one yesterday about the older sewing machines versus all the new ones out there. I was taught to sew on a machine from the 70’s and when my mom bought me a new one a few years ago, I was quite befuddled. Funny thing is, hubby bought me a Singer 237 for Mother’s Day and asked if I knew how to use it. I laughed, because threading it came so natural. Oh, and how she sounds when she runs….The wonders of an older machine!

  16. Julia M. In MI says:

    Very cool vintage machine. Love the looks of it and it sounds like it works great too.

  17. By LuLu says:

    What a great idea. I’ve always loved my mom’s old vintage machine. What a great idea to use it to fix a new problem!! Awesome!!

  18. kern says:

    What a beautiful machine-those vintage machines have character!

  19. Brenda says:

    I learned to sew on a treadle machine. This inspires me to go look at it again and see if I can make it work 🙂

  20. Elizabeth says:

    Cool! There is something to be said about pure mechanics — easy to fix, cheap and reliable. Smart lady.

  21. Alana says:

    Vintage sewing machines are so full of surprises! By the way, her blog is really cool too, I just finished peeking all around in it!

  22. Jody says:

    I would absolutely love to win!!

  23. amy says:

    Beautiful machine! I have my mom’s old Bernina circa 1980’s–which is quite young compared to the 1947 one.

  24. Camilla Moss says:

    Makes me wonder if my Grandmother’s old machine would do the trick! 🙂

  25. Christy says:

    What a cool sewing machine. My house was built in 1947. It should probably have a vintage sewing machine to go with it. Thanks for showing us what is old can be new again!

  26. Michele says:

    It never ceases to amaze me…the quality of machines made 40+ years ago. My mother still has her wedding shower hand mixer. She did have to replace her wedding shower iron about 3 years ago- not because it wouldn’t heat but because the cord wore through too close to the iron and Dad couldn’t repair it again. I’ve been married half the time and replaced twice the appliances.

  27. I have been so excited to find an old machine off freecycle. Now I just need to figure out how to thread it…

  28. Christine says:

    I love old sewing machines! It did almost freak me out though when I was first starting and saw my cousins in the Philippines still sewing with the manual foot pedal (no electricity) machine. It was an awesome sight to see though. 🙂

  29. Helena says:

    thanks for the info, love the machine.

  30. sarah says:

    How cute! I love how this machine helped you for quite an affordable rate!

  31. Mary says:

    I love that machine. Singers are such well made machines.

  32. sonja says:

    Wow what an eye opener !!! Never thought of an old machine !!!

  33. scubagoose says:

    I love when the answer to a modern problem is something tried and true or vintage! Makes me respect older generations in a whole new way!

  34. KatieV says:

    That machine is pretty just to look at! I would never say that about modern machines. 🙂

  35. Kim D. says:

    Looks like a great machine. I have a featherweight 221 and it doesn’t have the large throat. Not even one coke can tall. But it does sew a very nice straight stitch.

  36. susan says:

    They sure don’t make things to last like that anymore! Everything is made of plastic

  37. Stacy says:

    How awesome!

  38. Kara says:

    What a beautiful machine. I just love the look of it!

  39. Ananda says:

    That is an awsome machine. I’ve never sewn on an older machine, but I love the look of them and hope one day to be able to try one out.

  40. emtdlb says:

    I love those older machines. My mother-in-law has an older model Montgomery Ward machine and it is such a workhorse. Goes through almost anything you throw at it. Personally I don’t use all those fancy stitches, so one of those older machines would be great. Thanks for the tips.

  41. Becky says:

    What a gorgeous machine! I think it’s awesome she’s using an older machine. Stuff back then was just made better, built to last.

  42. Lisa says:

    LOVE my vintage machine. It looks beautiful and isn’t expensive to repair because there are no computer parts involved. 🙂

  43. Sara says:

    What an awesome find!

  44. Deb V says:

    What a nice sewing machine. I am glad you found a sewing machine that you can quilt with.

  45. Rachel says:

    I wish I still had my great grandmothers old sewing machine. It set in my parents basement for years untouched when I was little and waaaaayyyy before I started sewing. They eventually sold it in a yard sale I believe. They really made Singer machines a lot better back then.

  46. Leslie Renee says:

    Oh my gosh I love this post!! I also LOVE the machine… just beautiful!

  47. Darlene says:

    Great idea. Never thought to purchase an older machine, but sounds good.

  48. Rose P in AZ says:

    What a beautiful machine. Who knew that there is that much difference in size of harp. (Thanks, didn’t know that term before either.) My aunt used to have a gorgeous old Singer.

  49. Page says:

    Now I’m getting closer than ever to buying an oldie but goodie. I know just the place to get it serviced. In fact, when I brought my new model Pfaff in (they were listed as a Pfaff dealer), they were’nt trained to work on it… yet. They had a lot of old machines there and ton more in the back for parts and everything was neat as a pin!

  50. Katie says:

    I have the same Kenmore as you! Quilting is the hugest work-out with that sucker. The largest quilt I did was about a queen size and I only did straight lines which was hard enough!! Who knew an antique could solve that problem?? On my next machine, I’m definitely going to take into account throat size.

  51. Debra says:

    Not only does it look cool, it does what you want! Great find!

  52. Lori says:

    My Grandmother had a treadle Singer machine. She created the most amazing dresses with that machine. I tell you I had the best dressed Barbie in town. Thanks for the memories.

  53. Megan says:

    I love this! I used to have a vintage machine, but it scared me, so I didn’t keep it. If I ever get my hands on another I will do better.

  54. Desiree says:

    I am glad to hear that this machine is treating you well. My aunt just gave me my grandma’s old machine because she wanted to keep it in the family. I didn’t think I would ever have a use for it but I might need to dig it out for my quilting. – Thanks for the great idea!

  55. Meg says:

    I cant wait to go thrifting this summer when we’re traveling… I hope to find some great old sewing machines!

  56. Sara says:

    Any thoughts about doing an article about “vintage” sergers?

  57. anne says:

    Love those old machines.

  58. Katy says:

    Old Machines Rock!! I love my 1963 Bernina , also known a Bernie… She is a beige beauty 🙂

  59. SARAH says:

    Since reading your post I’ve realized my dad has a vintage sewing machine from the early 1900’s. It was my great grandmother Petrina’s. She was 1st gen immigrant from Sicily.She was a seamstress. I wonder if he would let me have it?

  60. Jessica T says:

    That is fantastic! I love that you were able to find such an economical and beautiful sollution. I just love the look of old machines.

  61. tricia says:

    Just ‘won’ a 221 on ebay! It’s beautiful. Never thought of doing free motion with it-

    Great blog… my friend directed me here last week. Such good information!


  62. Peggy B says:

    Wow! This is great I was just given a 1949 Singer 15-91 that belonged to a friends mother who had passed away because she and her girls do not sew at all. I was thrilled to get this workhorse of a machine which makes perfect 1/4 inch seams for quilting every time.

  63. Grand dad says:

    really like the “improved” thread holder…makes both machine and quilt output terrific!

  64. Molly B. says:

    That’s the coolest machine!

  65. Pam says:

    My first sewing machine when I was about 10 was an antique looking machine like this one. I loved sewing on it.

  66. kt says:

    Love that machine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  67. maryanne says:

    I love that a 1947 machine solved a 2009 problem – looks like a gorgeous machine, too!

  68. Jennifer N. says:

    I just love those old sewing machines!

  69. Thanks for those links. Who would have thought Jean’s old machine could do such a good job. I loved Gina’s tips for long-arm quilting. I haven’t done a big one yet (or even made one), but it’s good to learn all you can!

  70. Jan B says:

    There sure are some great vintage sewing machines available. They are on my wishlist with those perfect stitches they make.

  71. Carol says:

    I had no idea such a vintage machine could be used for free motion!

  72. Sarah says:

    Wow, this is cool. I would have never thought of looking into vintage machines for free-motion quilting! My machine does it well, but doesn’t have nearly enough space to fit anything more than a baby quilt :(.

  73. alisha says:

    Great idea! I love the simplicity of the vintage Singers.

  74. Kristin L says:

    Jean’s podcast was a fun listen. She certainly did her research and got herself a treasure! There were two comments that had me thinking though. First, that a $2000 machine that met all her needs (and more) was not in the budget. Of course, I don’t know anyone else’s financial situation, and 2K could very well be out of most budgets. But, when you consider the money spent on machine #1 that necessitated the purchase of machine #2 because it didn’t need the sewist’s needs, plus the money spent to get everything in working order; the money most people (myself included) spend on “treats” like coffee drinks, more fabric, new clothes, etc., it seems to me, that if the will is there, many people CAN actually save up the money to buy a well made, long lasting machine with many features. Sure, you couldn’t just go out and buy a machine in one fell swoop, and would probably have to cut back on a few things for some months. However, it can be done in many cases. And why do it? Because of another thing Jean said in her podcast — that the vintage machine she bought had originally, back in it’s day, cost what was probably the equivalent of a $2K machine today. And look, it’s still going strong and has become very desirable. So perhaps some pinching and saving for a more expensive machine today would pay off in 50+ years when the machine is still churning out the quilts, garments, home decor, and more.

  75. Nicole says:

    How AWESOME is that!! I want one too!!!

  76. Kelly W says:

    Right now I’m stuck in the 60s (also have one from 80s & 90s). I like the heavy duty construction of the all metal machines even though they lack all the extras. Maybe my next machine will pre-date me.

  77. Becky says:

    I am a FIRM believer that most of the “old” machines are better than the newer ones. Simplicity rules!

  78. Jessica says:

    off to listen…

  79. angel says:

    What a great deal. They just don’t make ’em like they used to…. Things were made to last back then. Makes sense that they’d still work wonderfully.

  80. Kim B. says:

    That is a gorgeous machine!

  81. Linnea says:

    I’m totally going to try the pop can measurement to see how my machine compares!Thanks for the vintage inspiration Irene

  82. How cool is that! If you haven’t checked out her blog… you should….she has a really cool sewing machine make over….

  83. Mrs. JP says:

    Wow, what a find. My mom has that machine only it’s a pedal machine. I should try to sew something with it!

  84. silver says:

    I don’t have itunes installed, so I can’t listen to the podcast. I’ve attempted free-motion embroidery with no luck and was hoping this would help!

  85. Beth says:

    I can’t wait to hear this podcast. I have an old maching almost like this one and would never have dreamed I could free motion quilt on it!

  86. jo says:

    I am now rushing off to do the can test with my singer!

  87. Lisa says:

    What a great idea…we are usually so busy looking for the newest and greatest, that we often overlook something so simple.

  88. Martha says:

    That is a snazzy looking machine. What a find! I’m off to start looking at “new” old machines…

  89. Margie says:

    Oh that machine is wonderful! Congrats on finding a solution to your problem!

  90. Miya says:

    Hmmm, this is an excellent idea!

  91. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for all your information! I am new to quilting and would love to win something.

  92. susan says:

    Houses, cars, sewing machines…they just don’t make them like they used to! Awesome machine.

  93. Elyse Mullis says:

    Oh my gosh, this machine is awesome. Not to mention it looks amazing for the age it is!

  94. Marilyn Robson says:

    Hi, I love to see people using the older machines. I have three and love them all. One I found in a Goodwill store for $20 and all that was wrong with it, was someone had reversed the plugs in the electrical connection and it wouldn’t stop running. I think the previous owner thought it was broken, I just plugged them in correctly and it sews beautifully. I hope you enjoy many years with your baby.

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